My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for. Nothing else.
For Nemesis, that person is Sidonia, heir to the galactic Senate. The two grew up side by side, and there’s no one Nemesis wouldn’t kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the Imperial Court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia.
She must become her.
Now one of the galaxy’s most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced Senators’ children, and Nemesis must find within herself the one thing she’s been told she doesn’t have—humanity. With the Empire beginning to fracture and rebellion looming, that could be the one thing that saves her and the Empire itself.
Trigger warnings: violence, torture, attempted rape using drugs, mentions of rape, homicides, character deaths, animal/creature death
The Diabolic is set in the far future, when humans have colonized the stars, and despite all scientific advancement, have turned their back on science and exploration, and reverted back to a religion-fuelled state. The Empire is ruled by a sadistic Emperor, who rules over a Grandsoliquy of nobles and old families, all of whom live in massive spaceships, while the common folk, called Excess, live on planets that are used for resources. The society has breeded engineered humans for the sole purpose of serving the elite, and Nemesis is one such entity, called a Diabolic. The hierarchy of the Empire places engineered humans as non-human entities and treats them barely above creatures. Nemesis is a lethal bodyguard, and when her charge is endangered, she is sent in her place as a hostage, Prince and the Pauper style.
Nemesis personal journey is from being born and considered a non-human, to finally accepting that she is worthy of love, her own destiny and path in life. Her entire existence has always been bound to one purpose – protecting Sidonia, whom she grew up alongside. She is very aware of the position she is in, and how limited her rights are, and believes what the society has dictated to her, despite Sidonia’s objections to the contrary about how she is a person in her own right. When she has to ally with the heir of the Empire to complete her Diabolic duties, she starts to grow into her personhood, to realize that there is a path she can take besides just living and dying for Sidonia. Her love for Sidonia does play a major part in her decisions, though, and defines her milestones. Even when others tell her, it is still up to her to realize that she is a person, and one who is capable of much more.
As for the world constructed, Kincaid makes a good case for the existence of such a dystopia. It derives a lot from the monarchies of Ancient times, and how caste systems and court politics play into the creation of such a divided world. The Diabolics and Servitors are very much a stand-in for slavery, and Nemesis rising to challenge it for herself, not for a revolution of sorts, makes for an interesting storyline. The ending was a little wobbly, with all the constant switching in loyalties, and Nemesis’ own ideals, but overall, the book is a great start to the series.